Graceland postmortem: Has everyone gone too far?
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Graceland. Read at your own risk!
Though the residents of Graceland finally caught their bad guy, they basically became villains in the process.
During the season finale, Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) needs Mike (Aaron Tveit) to sign off on the falsified report that will ultimately send Martun Sarkissian (Peter Stormare) to jail and exonerate Briggs from being the sin-eater. But Mike is reluctant, instead planning to tell the FBI the truth, even if that means burning everyone in the house.
Fearing that his past will finally come back to haunt him, Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) — who we learned killed a convicted pedophile targeting his family in the past and Briggs covered it up — decides to take the stolen $9 million and leave Graceland behind with Courtney (Annie Ilonzeh), who still believes Jakes is a money launderer.
Briggs ultimately tracks down Ari (Rhys Coiro), but they’re cornered by Soto Street gangsters, who are out for blood. Paige (Serinda Swan) and Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) come to their rescue, and Briggs reveals that he’s FBI and puts Ari down for good to keep the report intact. Mike eventually signs the report, protecting everyone and freeing Gusti (Mahedi Rakib) from jail in the process. So what’s next? EW caught up with executive producer Jeff Eastin to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have the residents of Graceland all gone too far? Are they beyond redeemable at this point?
JEFF EASTIN: I don’t think on television there’s anyone irredeemable — if Heisenberg can be redeemed, just about anybody can. Everyone in the house has really gone to the edge of their limits and — knock wood if we get a season 4 — the idea will be to dive into the aftermath of that and see if we can pull everybody back from that edge.
Is that the potential theme of season 4, to see if these people can come back from the darkness?
Where we strove, this year especially, was to be as provocative and edgy as we could. The show has always gone there, I think this year especially. We don’t know if we have a season 4 yet, but there’s been rumblings and we’ve been sitting down creatively trying to figure out what we want to do, but really that was it. The idea this year was to push everybody as close as we could to that edge, and hopefully make it as interesting as possible. I’m really happy with it. For me, this was the best season we’ve had so far.
Briggs has never been shy about crossing lines. Do you see a future where Briggs can’t be in the house anymore because of that?
Briggs is this house. There’s a possibility the other roommates may not be able to exist there. We have that song at the end of the finale, which I particularly like, which talks about being the only one king. Briggs is the king of Graceland, and the house itself is his castle. So everybody else may not be there, but I think Briggs may be sitting on a lonely throne at the end, but he’ll still be there.
Is everyone done trusting Briggs at this point?
Johnny especially has gone back and forth between trusting Briggs and not trusting Briggs, and when he shoots Briggs this season, that comes to a head. Once you’ve lost Johnny, you’ve really lost everyone. So the real question going forward would be if no one can trust Briggs, how can they possibly function together? Hopefully the answer is: very interestingly.
Mike didn’t want to lie about this report. Can you talk about his decision to actually sign off on and cover not just Briggs, but everybody in the house?
Mike’s decision this year with the report comes down to the central crux of the show, which is how far is too far? What do we do for the job? It gets to be an interesting question. When I first started Graceland, one of the most interesting things – again this was based on a real house in Manhattan Beach with these actual agents – and actually after talking to some of them, there is a really interesting line they have between, “How do you do your job? If you do it to the letter of the law, you may not survive.” Undercover agents have to push beyond what’s right and proper and by the book, and Mike has really struggled with that. Really what we wanted to explore here was what is right, what is justice?
Ultimately Mike decided a couple of things. One was, what does his dream mean, what was he supposed to do? And I’m sure you caught it, but at the end there when the birds fly, you realize that he made the right choice. He was there to save Gusti, that’s what we wanted to have done. Also, he was able to sign the report, he was able to put Martun away, and essentially, with that one stroke, wiped away all of the sins of the house and broke the chains. There hasn’t been an accounting of that yet — that accounting will hopefully come next year and that will be personal to everyone. For Mike, it was looking at the greater good and saying, “Martun Sarkissian being put away by Homeland Security forever, and Gusti going home, those were the greater good.”
Did the report really wrap everything up with a nice little bow, or might this report come back to haunt them next season?
I would say at this point it’s wrapped up in a nice bow. There was only one way to make something like this go away. The Whitey Bulger case was a little bit what we based Briggs’ story on this year, and it’s a perfect example. Whenever you have a big case of a cartel or something like that, every single thing that Briggs has done or Logan, all of it gets dragged out and put before a jury, that’s just the nature of it — except under one condition, and that is if it’s national security, if it’s a matter of terrorism, then that protective shield slams down on it and none of that ever sees the light of day.
When he started concocting this plan in episode 305 when Colby ends up dead, that’s when Briggs started thinking to himself that he could use Mike, since Mike says, “It’s like I laid out a roadmap to my mind, and Briggs ran with it.” That’s when Briggs started coming up with this plan, and if he can figure out a way to get Martun somehow involved in international terrorism, then this whole thing would just get swept under the rug. So to answer your question, at least for now, this is essentially wrapped up.
Charlie was really against covering Ari’s death up for Briggs. Do you think she could ever forgive Briggs?
That’ll be interesting. I don’t see her forgiving him for a long time, if she ever does.
Even Paige changed her mind in the end about covering everything up. What will we see for her moving forward?
It’s really a matter of finding herself. The idea was to put her on this voyage of discovery from season 1 where we hadn’t really spent a lot of time diving into Paige, and then in season 2 where we did get to know her when she was protecting the girls. Then this season, it was her coming to grips with her own sin, which was what she’d done to Mike. Going into next season, what I’d really like to see is her blossom and embrace who she is. She is turning out to be one of the most interesting and confident characters. I really want to continue that and see her dive into some more undercover work.
Let’s talk about the Courtney and Jakes of it all. She’s a defense attorney. Why would she ever agree to run away with him believing he’s a money launderer?
If we get a season 4, we get to explore her in much more detail, and what we discover is that there’s a lot of things about her that we don’t know and that Jakes doesn’t know. That’s one of those exciting relationships I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to really play with next year. But you’re exactly right, there’s a lot more to Courtney than we know or that Jakes understands.
A lot of people thought maybe she was working with Germaine.
Um, nothing to comment at this point [Laughs]. But in reality, we really went back and forth on it, which is why I put that whole voiceover at the top. It’s really hit Jakes that he has fallen hard for this woman. (She’s named after my new wife.) It was one of those where he fell very very hard, very fast and he is wondering in his own mind, “What am I doing here? What is she doing here? Is there more to this?” A lot of Jakes’ decision to run was based on Mike saying, “I’m not going to find that report, go get a lawyer.” For Jakes, it was really weighing the option of “Do I pack up and leave, and if I do, do I take this woman that I’m in love with with me?” So with or without Courtney, I think Jakes would have taken the money and gone; she just became the icing on that particular cake.
Why did Johnny ultimately let Jakes go?
It was less about the physical altercation and more about the mental altercation in that it was almost like fighting a brother or a relative or a father or something. Yeah, he probably could’ve overpowered him, but the idea that Jakes wants to go is what really broke Johnny’s heart and allowed Jakes to get the best of him.
Did you ever consider alternate endings in which you actually killed someone off?
Yeah, we gave it some thought. One of the problems I’ve got with doing that is this is really a spectacular cast. Every single one of these guys is a fantastic actor. So the answer, ultimately, is I don’t see anybody dying anytime soon.
But since you’ve been exploring them having to get their hands dirty, at what point does it become unrealistic that one of them doesn’t suffer the ultimate consequences for that?
Ask me in season 5. Right now, I would say we’re starting along that path. Jakes has stepped over a Rubicon at this point by taking the money. That’s something we really want to embrace, this idea that Jakes has stepped over to the other side and how can he ever come back from this, if he comes back? We have some pretty interesting ideas that we hopefully get to explore with that. He may not come back as an agent, so we definitely have a lot to play with in that direction before somebody steps on the land mine.
So is it a manhunt when the show returns to track him down?
I would say it’s possible.
With Jakes gone, might there be a new agent in the house?
That’s another possibility. We’ve basically got a pretty good idea creatively of where we’d like to go with it, but again, until we get a season 4, I don’t want to say too much about.